Welcome to Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a weekly song or poem by a Minnesota writer. Our guest editor for February, 2021 is Mary Moore Easter.

Sagirah Shahid’s skilled poem “Familiar Fruit” evokes through the memory of shared sensation, quite different events: the gassing of a protest march and a former flame’s proffering of a hot pepper, suggesting further unseen links between the two.

Mary Moore Easter

To view this poem with the poet’s intended line breaks, maximize your window if you’re on a computer, and view horizontally if you’re using a phone or tablet.

Familiar Fruit
Sagirah Shahid

There was this moment before a white stranger offered to pour milk into my eyes—
screams permeated plumes of tear gas as the sting clawing up
my throat reminded me of the summer you dared me to eat a Carolina Reaper.
That ugly fruit you had grown in our patio wrangled my resolve and any escape
routes my drained nostrils considered. There were rubber bullets hunkering down
like mayflies above the Mississippi and I thought of you. The pepper spray’s burn 
fluttering with invasive familiarity. I’m stubborn enough to dawdle into denial. So what 
if I didn’t need to receive the milk after that? So what if a former flame found 
me tender and tainted by a pain I thought discarded? It looked like bravery. 
This tolerance. I felt guilty for wanting, in the middle of Lake Street,
for you to tease out your white boy grin. My insides purged the reaper.
The street was like flypaper after that, I felt trapped there 
fighting for life, fondling the memory of a fruit 
that singed my lips first.


See Sagirah Shahid read “Familiar Fruit” from Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. Created for Rain Taxi’s video-launch of the book by the multimedia production company iDream.tv. This lovingly filmed tribute showcases the rage, grief, and sheer power of poetry speaking back to injustice.

Sagirah Shahid is an African American Muslim poet from Minneapolis. Her debut collection of poetry, Surveillance of Joy, is forthcoming from Half Mystic Press in 2021.

“Familiar Fruit” from Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: Poems in the wake of racial injustice, edited by Mary Moore Easter and published by Eric Lorberer (Rain Taxi), @2020. Appears with the permission of the author.